By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma last September, countless Florida residents had their lives turned upside down overnight and wondered how their most basic needs would be met.
But fortunately, for many in the Tampa Bay area, Buccaneer Clinton McDonald knew that when the going gets tough, the tough get going so, he and his foundation, McDonald & Associates Collective Collaboration Light Into Darkness, responded by mobilizing Operation Food Truck.
“We quickly worked with community leaders in a collective effort to identify the biggest needs, and when we found out that people had no electricity and couldn’t store or cook food, we came up with food trucks,” the defensive tackle said.
A somewhat simple but brilliant idea for free food that benefitted thousands, and just one of many reasons why McDonald was named this year’s Bucs nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award (WPMOY), which recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.
"It was amazing to see the food truck operators be so enthusiastic to ensure that these people in a bad situation would not be hungry,” he said. “We knew our greatest impact could be in the lower impact areas throughout the St. Petersburg-Tampa Bay region, where many people had no means to travel outside their area so, the food trucks showed up every day at a certain time during the four days without power, starting with about 2,000 people showing up the first day.”
That’s making a big difference in a lot of lives, and a perfect example of stepping up when the need is greatest, and why he is a first-time WPMOY nominee.
“This first Walter Payton Award nomination surprised me, and I was very humbled that the organization and my teammates believe in my works,” the 6’2” 297-pounder said. “I believe all the nominees have a passion in our heart for community service and know we were put on this earth to do this work.”
That desire, combined with his upbringing, proved a perfect match for the married father of three daughters.
“My father was in the Air Force and my mother was in the Army, so they taught we six kids to do things the right way, have goals, and contribute to the family structure,” stated the 31-year-old who fittingly was a 2016 Salute to Service Nominee Presented by USAA, with whom he is a long-time member and now appears in a national commercial with his family.
That belief in structure also spurred him to place all his worthy causes under one umbrella with his foundation.
“We incorporated MACCLID in 2014 so we could set up a structure, and began with a football camp in my home state of Arkansas that taught kids they could do something special not only in sports, but in every other profession as well,” remembered the University of Memphis alumnus.
That basic beginning has now blossomed into a professional entity making a difference in Tampa Bay and beyond, coinciding with his arrival four years ago after a three-year stint with the Seattle Seahawks where he won a Super Bowl, preceded by his first year with the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2010.
That impact includes a plethora of programs near and dear to McDonald.
There is for example Operation Fatherhood held at the Bucs headquarters, which he describes as “military dads with demanding schedules competing for their families through football for an evening out to win Bucs tickets.”
Additionally, just last month he was the speaker at the Bucs’ third annual General Norman Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year award, which highlights heroes and families who get involved in the community.
He also attended the 2016 Invictus Games in nearby Orlando, which he described as “humbling to watch the wounded warriors choose to compete and not let their disability keep them down.”
Even with all that, he still finds time to remember his roots in both Arkansas and MACCLID through multiple football camps and other programs, including Back to School Kickoff, Rural Health Initiative, and the Ronald McDonald House.
A committed man who sums it all up simply by saying, “Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a change-maker in my communities.”
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc. (www.IIRSports.com), a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, and his articles have appeared in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (Annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).